Maintaining a Work-Life Balance as a Nurse

In today’s world, where instant communication is possible, and people expect productivity to be at an all-time high, switching off from work and dedicating time to your private life and family is becoming more and more difficult. While most professions suffer from this to a degree, none have quite the same difficulty as shift based working environment, and no one knows that better than a nurse.

Maintaining a work-life balance is something that takes active decision-making and the ability to switch off your work brain when you’re on your personal time. Let’s have a look at some tips for improving your work-life balance as a nurse working shifts in a hospital.

Learn How We Work and Are Motivated

An important first step in learning how to maintain a healthy work-life balance is to understand the basics of how human beings are motivated and what drives us. One of the best accepted ways of easily communicating this is Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows us by using a pyramid how we are motivated as human beings.

• At the base of this pyramid are our physiological needs. These are our requirements to stay alive – things like water, food, air, shelter, and other basic necessities as human beings go here. It’s what forms the base of the entire motivation as a human being.

• Following this are things like safety and love and acceptance, detailing how we need to feel and keep ourselves safe (both physically and in our job security, income, and other work-related things).

• Esteem and cognitive needs come next, which drive our desires to learn and be competent and feel self-respect. This is also where we search for meaning in our lives.

• The pyramid then gives way to more abstract motivators like aesthetics and self-actualization.

Understanding that at our base, we are driven by the need to provide for ourselves and others and maintain a sense of security in our lives and lifestyle, it’s easy to see why we sometimes let our work-life balance take a back seat.

Unplug from Technology

While you might not spend an enormous amount of time in front of a computer or using technology on your job, getting away from the constant and unrelenting barrage of information often presented to us when we’re connected on our smartphone, tablet or computer, means we’re never properly relaxing and unwinding. Take a break from technology and take a moment to stop and figuratively smell the roses. Why not spend a lazy Saturday in the garden with a good book and a barbecue?

Take Vacations and Use Your Time Off

One surefire way of unplugging from technology is to take a vacation. It doesn’t have to be a big, expensive overseas trip. Sometimes all you need is a tent and a weekend in the wilderness. If you have a family, use the excuse to get out of your routine and spend some quality time with them. Get outside of the normal hustle and bustle and pace of your life and career in healthcare by slowing down on a camping weekend.

Plan Activities in Advance

This is a really important aspect of maintaining that work-life balance. If you have activities or trips planned in advance, you can’t quickly change your plans to include more work or pick up extra shifts because you’ve already planned to be doing something other than work during that time. It gives us motivation and incentive by having something to look forward to.

Even doing something like learning a work-related skill or new discipline can be planned in advance and allows you to get that time away from work and upskill yourself. As a nurse, you might want to upskill yourself with something like this Carson-Newman MSN-FNP qualification.

Implement Real Boundaries Around Your Work Hours

Perhaps it might sound obvious, but enforcing your working hours yourself is the only way you’re ever going to get quality time away from work. If your shift ends at 5pm, leave work at 5pm and leave your work behind. Don’t bring work home, and don’t plan to finish your reports or files at home because you might think you’re less distracted there. Creating a real physical separation between your working place and your home is imperative, and blurring these lines is going to interfere with your work-life balance.

Have Friends Outside the Workplace

If all your friends are work colleagues, or in the same profession as you, the conversation will naturally turn to work when you’re spending time together. While this is fine, you should try and join clubs or groups where you can spend time with people where the conversation won’t be all work-related. That way you’re getting some great time with friends without it involving work at all.

Have Hobbies Unrelated to Your Job

The most important thing you can do for your work-life balance is to have hobbies that are unrelated to your job. As a nurse, having a hobby volunteering at your child’s sports days as the medial backup might be really noble, but you’re still not getting away from your everyday work. Why not start reading or take up crochet instead?

Some fun ideas for hobbies are:

• Photography
• Painting or drawing
• Learn a musical instrument like the guitar
• Get active by taking up running or a sport
• Take lessons on a new skill like dancing
• Improve your cooking skills
Try homebrewing beer
• Take a camping trip

As a nurse, you’re constantly under pressure and making split-second decisions every day. There are so many things you can do in your spare time and involve your family in to get your mind away from these very real work pressures.

While it can be a challenge, you should never overlook the importance of a good work-life balance, particularly when you’re working shifts and your natural circadian rhythm might be out of sync. Making real and quality time for yourself and your family can improve many aspects of your life, and most importantly, it can keep your mental health in check.

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